Sunday, September 28, 2008

Deep roots

So my Grandma died. It is not wholly unexpected I guess. She was getting old, in her mid 80s, and has been frail for years and years. The last time she traveled was to my father's funeral four years ago. She lost Grandpa a little earlier this year, has had a few scares since then and has been DNR for a long time. She was losing her cognition a little bit at a time, but maintained the sweetest disposition. You'd walk in the room one minute and she would not be sure who you were, then turn around and she's be overjoyed to see you and know your name. She was in incredible shape for Grandpa's funeral and shocked everyone. I come from a very large Catholic German family and that she knew so many of us at that time was nothing short of a miracle. She was ecstatic to see everyone, sad to see Grandpa go, and I suppose it gave her some closer to see the family gather together for him and to know we'd all carry on. I will be going back to Nebraska for the funeral. Not the most ideal timing. I have my first exam and first lab practical this week but I think I am going to be able to work it out. I will bring a study guide with me on the plane. I'll be glad to see my family, though a cousin is getting married in October in San Diego and I have had that tripped planned for a while now as well and was going to see them all then. It will be nice for us all to get together for a happy occasion. We've just had too many funerals in my family. I will say this though. Joseph died at the most diffiult time of year for travel and we had huge snow and ice storms from Nebraska to here. Driving was treacherous and flying very hit or miss, but somehow a great many of them managed to get here even though none of them ever really got to know Joe-Gi at all. They came for Mom. They came for me. I will never miss a family funeral again if I can help it. I know first hand the healing presence of people who are bound to you by marriage or blood. All that history. All those memories. The knowledge of lineage, hearing people discuss members who have been gone 50 years or more, knowing these are the people who will keep you alive after you are gone. Seeing pictures of faces that hold hints of yours in funny, heavy clothing, skin weathered by wind and sun, thickened hands from the hard work of farming. Hearing how just three generations ago we still spoke German at home. Knowing the health and personality ailments of generations past. Seeing the faces of cousins whom you played with on the farm as children, remembering the purity of all our smiles and how we loved and tormented one another, still hearing the fading echoes of our calls and laughter as dusk set across treetops that turned to black against the setting sun backdrop, a fall chill settling down with the coming of night and our moms bringing our windbreakers out, letting the screen door slam. The grunts of the pigs in the pen across the way. The distant bark of the dog at the neighbor's farm, a mile down the road. The occasional call of rooster mingling with our whispers and thrilled giggles as we found hiding places in the dark. Finding our way into a house full of warmth and laughter, watching the game of cards and Grandma offering us ice cream or pie, getting up from her game to serve us.

They were good and happy days. Days of purity and innocence. The farms are still there, still in the family and I ought to make more of an effort to expose my kids to that life. It always calls to me when I go back. It is in my blood, small town USA, hard work, sensibility, the loyalty of family. My roots run deep and I am blessed. Grandma leaving us is not a surprise. But it is a passing of the torch and the ending of a section of my life, which has faded like a long, drawn out whisper. Only one of my grandparents is left now and only one of my parents. Two of my children. Both of my brothers. I have heard it said that Heaven becomes more real and important to you when it becomes populated with those you love. I am finding that to be a profound truth.

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